Excellent cheese-making adventure

20 June 2013
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny
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Ticking two things off her bucket list, Sacha Kenny recently spent a day with good friends getting back to basics - hand-milking a cow and making cheese 

I LOVE cheese, so when I was invited recently to join friends Steph and Tracey on their 'excellent cheese-making adventure' - a day of hand-milking and cheese-making in exchange for an afternoon of hard graft in the garden of Kapiti cheese-maker Alexis Murti - I was very excited.

Step number one - milk the cow! Mandy, our supplier for the day, is a beautiful jersey-cross that Tracey regularly milks as part of a sustainable collective. As a first-time milker I found the experience truly fantastic: collecting Mandy from the field, walking in the winter sun as she happily followed us to the milking area, connecting with the earth as we squatted flat-footed beside her and being grateful as she freely gave her milk.  In under an hour we had seven litres and our cheese-making journey had begun.

Alexis Murti is the Curious Cook and, as a cheese and pasta-maker extraordinaire, runs workshops throughout the wider Wellington region.

Alexis began making cheese in 2010 after completing a workshop with New Zealand cheese master Mindi Clews. She then proceeded to run short cheese-making workshops under the Curious Cook name with Mindi's guidance before branching out on her own. Alexis is also a presenter for the Mad Millie franchise, demonstrating their products and cheese-making methodology.

Based in rural Otaki, Alexis regularly makes batches of brie, halloumi, feta and ricotta with fresh organic milk from a local Horowhenua farmer: “I love the idea of getting back to basics and making cheese is now easily incorporated into my weekly life. Teaching others how to do the same seemed a natural progression for me; I know what it means to me to be able to provide my family with wholesome produce and I enjoy making it easier for others to do the same."

We made three cheeses on the day: feta, halloumi and ricotta.  All three fit well into the cycle of timing, temperatures and using as much of the milk as possible. Alexis skilfully guided us through the hands-on process, beginning with feta, and while the feta curd was setting, we began making the halloumi, which is a quicker process, before turning the leftover whey into ricotta.

The day was perfect: good friends, new experiences, a shared lunch and three cheeses produced amidst it all.  For Tracey, who has been hand-milking Mandy once a week for the past 18 months, taking the milk beyond her weekly yoghurt production and making cheese was another step in her dairy adventure.

Tracey says "the milk in itself always feels like a well-earned treat and the resulting cheeses from our day were like treasures". As she recalled a few days later "the halloumi helped top that night’s pizza, however I was very reluctant to cut into the perfect feta round that was brining in my fridge. A few days later I did use half the feta in a spanakopita and it was delicious. Now all I have to do is set up for regular feta production!"

Apart from being amazed that at some point in history the process of cheese-making was discovered and refined I was actually surprised at how relatively simple it was (she says!), the key factor being maintaining the correct temperature. I’ll get back to you on how easy it actually is once I’ve made a batch at home, alone, with no one holding my hand – I hope it works because I am now a total homemade cheese convert. Thanks Alexis.

Also check out MyKitchen where Alexis shares her Orzo Salad recipe with homemade sheep's milk feta as this month's guest post.

Alexis Murti  |  Curious Cook
Click this link for Alexis's cheese and pasta workshop calendar
phone: 0220 40 80 46
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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